October 13, 2010
Dear Dan Furmansky,
We were married last July. Less than 24 hours into our new married life together we began to notice privileges afforded to us as a heterosexual, legally married couple that are not afforded to same-sex couples in the United States whose relationships are not legally recognized at the state and/or federal level.
Last weekend family, friends, and parishioners joined us for a reception to celebrate our union. In lieu of gifts to us, we asked our guests to consider making a contribution to organizations that work for marriage equality. One of the organizations we recommended that was the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love Campaign.
We are proud to send you the enclosed checks totaling $1,540. We hope that Standing of Side of Love will use these donations to further its work harnessing the power of love to stand with all families, and to promote marriage equality.
Keep Standing on the Side of Love,
Rev. Thom and Anne Belote
Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church
Overland Park, KS
By Carolyn White-Lesieur
I could not stay home and do nothing. I had to hear it for myself. Centro Presente, an immigrant rights group based in Somerville, was organizing a meeting to inform us that Arizona and ICE had come to Somerville, Massachusetts. (ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
The incident that sparked it? An innocuous attempt to locate a missing person who no longer lived in a building was the perfect opportunity to…”Oh, by the way, can I see your papers? Hmm, maybe we’ll ferret out some of these illegal aliens…these criminals….”
Whoa, stop! America, what hath thou become?! Where is the empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, lending of hand, the Welcome Wagon, the America of our highest ideals?
They entered a building showing no search warrant. They went door-to-door, entering and searching the rooms of the apartments, ostensibly to search for this missing individual but along the way, they must have decided to kill two birds with one stone. They asked people for their names and identification in a not-so-innocent manner.
A 14-year-old Latino spoke with composure but evident distress about what happened to him, his 10-year-old sister, and his parents. They were interrogated and felt threatened and intimidated. The family feels insecure even though they are documented residents. The 10 year old girl was particularly traumatized by the experience; suddenly, her world was not such a nice place.
Imagine it were you. Wouldn’t you feel somehow shamed and sullied? It’s wrong and we cannot ignore it.
The First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church of Cambridge came with a large delegation to show their support. Senior Minister Rev. Fred Small reminded everyone that Unitarian Universalists “stand on the side of love with immigrant families”; that “every religious tradition teaches us to welcome the stranger. Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor.’ Jesus did not say, ‘Throw your neighbor under the bus.’ I want you to know that we will stand with you.”
He then led with the song “Marching into the Light.”
Rev. Lilia Cuervo delivered her message of support and indignation in Spanish and was much appreciated as well.
I was proud to be there, proud that our ministers saw the importance of our support and they, too, could not just stay home and do nothing.
Nancy Murray of the ACLU spoke firmly and pointedly that ICE agents are violating the Constitution, in particular the 4th Amendment, as well as the 5th and 14th. Remember the 4th Amendment? It states that it is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. “SECURE in their persons, houses…”
Warren Goldstein-Gelb, Executive Director of the Welcome Project, continued by making the point that “we need to have a conversation about laws that protect persons….” He emphasized that the Constitution says persons; not the word “citizens”. Persons. These persons are not criminals. We need to bear that in mind. This family is not illegal, nor undocumented. They are fine, hard-working people.
Patricia Montes is the Executive Director of Centro Presente. She gave an impassioned speech about defending human rights in our communities. Yes, there are 12 million undocumented people in the United States, but it is a broken system. She pleaded that we all become better informed about rights and spread the word. It is UNACCEPTABLE to use such tactics of intimidation.
We must stand by the side of immigrants — documented or undocumented — and be vigilant that people’s rights are not trampled upon and laid aside during the debate on the thorny immigration issue. We cannot “stay home” on this issue if we want an America that stands on the side of love.
Last month, lying in a hospital bed three days after gender affirmation surgery, I read about a horrific murder. A transgender woman, Victoria White, was brutally murdered in her apartment in Maplewood, NJ. When they announced her death, the police used her birth name – a name she was no longer legally known by. They cited her as male, although Victoria had gone through the same surgery as me a few years earlier to proclaim her true gender. Victoria’s murderer has not been found.
The past few weeks have been marked by so many tragic losses. Tyler Clementi. Asher Brown. Justin Aaberg. You may have heard these names, but chances are, you never heard of Victoria White.
Join me in making sure that the death of Victoria White — and other genuine, honest people trying to live as transparently as possible in an all too hostile country — are not kept a secret.
Sadly, Victoria is just one of the many transgender individuals we have lost. Recently, in Eureka, California, Chloe Lacey, an 18-year-old transgender woman, died by suicide. She shot herself at home after “struggl[ing] with fears of harassment and abuse.”
On National Coming Out Day, October 11th, Stacey, a transgender woman, was strangled to death in Philadelphia. When reporting Stacey’s murder, the Philadelphia Daily News put quotation marks around her name. The NBC affiliate disrespected her memory even more, reporting, “The victim is Michael Lee, a 31-year-old man who lived his life as a woman named Stacey Blahnik.”
As October is quickly winding down, and November is fast approaching, a little known annual vigil is about to take place — a vigil that remembers tragically those who lost their lives because of anti-transgender bias, prejudice, and hatred. Commemorate the 12th Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) this November. It is a time where individuals who believe in equality for all gather and remember those that were murdered based on their gender identity or expression.
I vividly remember my first Transgender Day of Remembrance. My family had abandoned me, and I had just begun to live full time in my true gender identity. I was terrified and harassed everywhere I went. Teenage boys tried to run me off the road, family members threatened to kill me, and all I could think about was surviving in a very hostile world. I felt horribly alone. In the LGBT press, I read of hundreds of people that had been murdered or committed suicide who were transgender. I realized I had never read any mainstream news about the deaths, or for that matter the lives of a whole community of people. We were made to be invisible in society, simply by the media keeping our lives a secret. Our murders and suicides were simply swept under the rug, kept secret from the world.
In the name of justice, you can help elevate these tragic murders, and raise awareness of anti-transgender violence.
Around November 20th every year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil is held. Click here to get more information on how you can hold a vigil in your congregation or community.
Remember those whose voices were silenced, whose lives were cut short. Let the transgender community know that while everyone else may have forgotten, you will not allow our dead to remain a secret. Stand with me on the side of love by helping me remind others that every life matters.
Transgender Advocate and Gender Educator
New JerseyMore >
By Rev. Dr. Michael Tino
Our nation has recently been made to focus on the widespread problem of childhood bullying. Unfortunately, it took the suicides of several young men who were humiliated repeatedly because of their perceived sexual orientation, to make us realize the trauma that nearly all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth (and many who are not, but thought to be) experience on a daily basis. If, however, we seek to blame this problem on the mean kids on the playground, we are deluding ourselves; we are absolving each of us of our responsibility for and our complicity in the bullying epidemic. Bullies, you see, come in all shapes and sizes.
In the midst of heated political campaigns, some of those bullies take to the airwaves. Name calling, violent imagery and vicious lies are thrown back and forth without regard for who gets hurt in the process. Here in New York, we have more than our share of politicians who are nothing more than bullies seeking political office. Recently, gubernatorial candidate Carl Palladino used anti-gay rhetoric to seek the votes of Orthodox Jews in New York City. “I don’t want [our children] brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option,” Palladino said, to thunderous applause from his audience.
Outrage against his remarks was swift, widespread, and bipartisan. Palladino backtracked and apologized in haste, but the damage was done. People across New York had their own homophobia validated by a major-party candidate for the state’s highest office. Bullies of all shapes and sizes were validated in their actions—overt and subtle—to marginalize, harass, intimidate and humiliate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Palladino’s comments—even retracted—will undoubtedly embolden and enable countless people to be mean, unjust, and perhaps even violent towards those who they consider “less than.”
The voters of New York will decide Palladino’s fate, though. What we as liberal religious people should be outraged about is the ways in which bullies cloak their behavior in the mantle of religion. Carl Palladino was supported in his remarks by people of faith, who applauded his vitriol as evidence that their narrow-minded views were gaining traction in the public arena. Bullies in clerical clothing are the worst sort of all, for not only are they unapologetic in their discrimination but they claim the moral authority of God to back them up in perpetuating injustice.
Those of us who stand on the side of love must be unequivocal in our response to these bullies. We must forcefully say that they do not speak for us, for what we hold holy, or for our God. Our nation was founded on ideals that include religious freedom and toleration. Yet while all people have the right to believe what they want to, none of us has the right to oppress others because of those beliefs. In standing on the side of love, we must denounce those who perpetuate hatred in the name of religion, in whatever form their hate shows itself.
We must, with love, say that religious people who perpetuate violence against women (and other, more subtle, forms of sexism) are wrong. We must say that religious people who spread intolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are wrong. We must say that religion is no excuse for anti-Semitism, for anti-Muslim bigotry, for racism or for anti-immigrant sentiments. All of these things are simply wrong, whichever Scripture you revere, however it is that you pray, whatever name you use for the divine.
As religious people seeking to stand on the side of love, we must put forth a different possibility. It is possible to worship a God that loves every part of creation equally. A God that stands with the “least of these.” A God that has an infinite capacity for forgiveness and compassion. A God that dislikes bullying in whatever form it takes, but most of all, in God’s own name.More >
Across the country, people are opening their eyes to the bullying and torment that many young people face because they are unique, and outside the current cultural norm. The tragedies of the past weeks may help wake more people up, and shift society, if we continue to speak out.
Enjoy this original song written and performed by Broadway stars as a benefit for the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT and questioning youth.More >